“BOTHER” (Before Offering To Heavily Expense, R$Invent): Unearthing BI Insights in the Most Unlikely of Places: the Existing Pools of Information Within Your Workplace

Yes. As many of you know, I took a hiatus from my blog to really get down to the nuts and bolts of business intelligence. As a BI solutions architect working for a leading BI consultancy, I get the wonderful benefit of getting to experience many different perspectives of BI in the workplace. Each year, I also get to watch how the industry grows in it’s implicit pervasiveness (and no, I do not mean BI pervasiveness, as in the latest “catch phrase” // one I would release BTW if you have added it to your vocabulary of late, but I digress)…No, what I mean, is the textbook definition : I get to watch how business intelligence is infecting the lives of countless employees, all with the promise of making lives easier, better, faster, eliminating manual practices without eliminating their jobs, enhancing decision making with data, empowering, illuminating, targeting, and the list goes on and on. But the reality of what I get to witness is that business intelligence has become the CRM that we all wanted to avoid; the nomenclature of late; the popular trend in the workplace, where one gets to order a dashboard on the side with their reporting platform. Oh, and for just a few dollars more, you can super size your order and get those ridiculous pie charts, with not just 3-D rendering capabilities but also in every hue and shade of the color spin-wheel of life…Spin a red, and lose your job, spin a green, and move up the proverbial corporate hierarchy – Opening up the paradigm of pandora’s BI box is not for the light hearted…Stop reading now if you are already getting queasy.


What was once a new area of interest for me, the uncovering of KPIs or key performance indicators, and building strategically targeted performance management programs around them, has sadly manifested into the CRM nightmare I predicated over 3 years ago in this very blog. When any one thing gets overexposed (think of that infamous hotel heiress), we are systematically programmed to shift focus elsewhere; the new, being more interesting than the old. And the ‘WHAT’ that dashboards tell (*it’s Red, it’s Green*) gets very old, very quickly. And before one measures the efficacy of their measurement system, (i.e. – metadata measurements of the usefulness *qualitatively* of their BI program, practitioners leap the quantum conclusion that BI isn’t effective anymore /wasn’t ever effective, in their respective work environments. 9 x out of 10, it is the leaders, who thought they wanted that extra helping of BI, after attending that year’s conference, flavored with some Norton or Kaplan or more generalized BI user conferences sponsored by the software vendors (slight shudder thinking about all of those workplace leaders who don’t know what they don’t know, and are invited by self-interested ‘teachers’ whose altruism stops as soon the invoice is signed and dated.) But again I digress.

And really, when it is all boiled down, besides being what you may perceive to be a rant on my part, is an impassioned plea for the next wave of BI to begin…A call to arms, for the vets of our industry to stop self-promoting for one second and to start helping those build better with what they already have. To stop buying the new flavors of this month, and stick with the vanilla or chocolate or strawberry . That’s what is so great about keeping it simple. Not only can you slice something individual and enjoy its flavor for a lifetime of richness personally; but if and when the flavor stops providing what you need, you can always layer on to the basics and actually create something new, like 2-tiered Swirls or for those even more risky, the 3-tiered über swirl, known to us ice cream aficionados as Neapolitan. 

Now, I realize one must crawl before they walk, and walk before they run, or at least, so I am told whenever I step onto my soapbox and herald for change in the way BI is being implemented today. Whether I champion change on the street or in this case, the cubicle aisles of the workplace, beating my drum, that yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and he likes it when BI delivers what it promises AND CAN deliver. It is up to the practitioners to hang up their green-colored glasses and start thinking about all of those reasons they got into BI in the 1st place: and it is a powerful step back to take; one I can personally speak to having just returned from my sojourn, now with a greater understanding that understanding ‘WHAT’ about a business is the surface level cut that indicators or operational reporting will yield. But looking further at the usefulness of one’s metrics, asking those painful questions like “what are you going to do with that data” instead of just becoming a reporting jockey, driving the ‘WHAT’ down to the ‘WHY’ is only half the battle; it is the ‘WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT IT’ that takes it to a whole other level. And only those analysts, truly inundated with the data from all areas of the company, not just finance, or operations, but market research, retail, development, etc., who can truly answer the timeless question of ‘So what do we do now;’ because they have the data to steer the powers that be in that direction –

This isn’t a tool that I am prescribing; it might be spreadsheets and hours of analyst bandwidth to finally arrive where you need to be to make your BI programs and platforms useful. And the only way to get there, is to take a step back and examine your business frankly, ask the right people the right questions, and finally, question (with respect) the answers you get or keep asking the FIVE WHY’s, until you get to root cause of an existing platforms efficacy. Otherwise, if you don’t change your approach, you will always get what you have always got’ and trust me, there are only a handful (< 5% of companies) doing this today; start now, by pulling of the band-aid, or kicking the crutch of expenditure away, and use what you got to explore what you have in your data stores, manual as it may be, to find the nuggets of gold you want to be successful. No, let me rephrase. The nuggets you NEED to be successful. Check back over the next few days for actual steps to achieve success. I will prescribe a 5 step DON’T BOTHER plan of attach for reinventing your BI program before you reinvest starting with where to start getting down and dirty with your existing analytics – This is not for the faint hearted – you’ll find many of today’s business intelligence practitioners tend to avoid, not know about, or are too intimidated to uncover what I will reveal – As we move into the new year, why not shift the paradigm of your existing BI mindset by taking a bite from the beefiest side of all: the analytic?!!!

More to come tomorrow…


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